Section 102(a) of the Copyright Act defines what is protected;
“Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression…” (italics added)
It goes on to state, “Works of authorship include the following categories":
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works
Not all works are covered by copyright.
Section 102(b) of the Copyright Acts states that "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."
In other words, ideas are not copyrightable nor are speeches (unless written down). The item must be in a "tangible form of expression" before a copyright can be attached to it.
Items used commonly - such as a calendar or a list without creativity - like a phone book, are also not eligible for copyright protection.
Another type of material that is not covered by copyright are government documents. These include bills, laws, congressional reports, census studies and all other types of material that the federal government in involved in publishing.
In addition ot fair use, there are exceptions to the copyright holders rights that cover the use or copying of part of a copyrighted work, particularly with regards to education and teaching: